Persecuted Indonesian writer & journalist visiting Canada

Thursday, May 20, 1999
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's foremost prose writer, and a long-time dissident who has spent half his life in jail or under house arrest, will speak in Toronto from May 27-29 and Vancouver on May 25 as part of his first ever trip to North America. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is pleased to host a speaking event on May 27 with Pramoedya entitled "Human Rights and Freedom of Expression in Indonesia". Other speakers include author Shyam Selvadurai, Indonesian journalist Joesoef Isak, CJFE's Wayne Sharpe, Winnie Sanjoto of Canadians Concerned about Ethnic Violence in Indonesia (CCEVI) and Brenda Doner of CUSO. The evening will run from 7 to 10pm at the Toronto District School Board (155 College St., 6th floor auditorium, near Queen's Park Subway Station. Joesoef Isak, himself a victim of the Suharto regime partly as a result of his work as Pramoedya's editor, will visit the CJFE offices on May 27 at 2pm. All CJFE members and media are welcome. Pramoedya's only public appearance in Vancouver will be on Tuesday, May 25 at 7:30 pm in the Choi Auditorium, 28 West Pender Street (SUCCESS Bldg). Prominent Canadian writers will join him in presenting his writing. Pramoedya, 74, has won a number of international awards, including repeated nominations for a Nobel Prize in Literature, for novels he composed in prison without access to pen or paper. His fellow inmates memorized, wrote down, and helped smuggle out his epic works of prose, which have been translated into 28 languages but are still officially banned in Indonesia. A life-long advocate of human rights, Pramoedya was imprisoned by three successive regimes in Indonesia - the Dutch colonial government in the 1940s, then under Sukarno for criticizing the treatment of Indonesia's Chinese minority, and finally under Suharto for 14 years, much of it with forced labour, which was followed by house and city arrest for another 15 years. For the first time since the 1950s, he has been given permission to travel outside Indonesia. His trip coincides with the launch of the English language edition of his memoirs, "The Mute's Soliloquy", published by Hyperion East. Like all of Pramoedya's work, this book is still banned in his home country. Other Events Pramoedya will make several other public appearances in Toronto. On Thursday May 27 from 9:30am to 12:00pm he will participate in a symposium entitled "Ethno-racial, religious identity and political formation in Indonesia-Prospects for an equitable and just civil society" at Hart House (music room), at Wellesley St West entrance of the University of Toronto. On Friday May 28 at 5-7pm, he will sign books at Pages books and Magazines, 256 Queen St. West (at John St.), sponsored by Penguin Books and Hyperion Press. On Saturday May 29, Pramoedya will speak at a memorial service, "Riots of May '98", as part of the "Human Rights City - Toronto" at Metro Hall, 55 John St. at King West Subway Station, between 3pm and 5pm A Victim Assistance Fundraising Dinner will follow that evening at the Grand Seafood Restaurant, Dragon Centre, 23 Glen Watford Dr, Sheppard Avenue East, Scarborough). For events information, please call CCEVI at 368-2796 or 977-9871. For more information on the 27 May event, to set up media interviews with Isak or Pramoedya, or to review copies of "The Mute's Solilquy", please contact CJFE at 489 College #403, Toronto, ON M6G 1A5, tel: 416 515 9622, fax: 416 515 7879, email: [email protected] For more info on Pramoedya and Indonesia, visit

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